Psychosomatic Disorders Causes, Treatment & its Types
- Published on September 12, 2022
A psychosomatic disorder is a psychological condition that results in physical symptoms. It may also be a medical condition that is accompanied by psychological symptoms.
Psychosomatic is a combination of ‘psyche’ (mind or psychology) and ‘somatic’ (to do with the body). It refers to conditions that have both physical and mental symptoms or causes.
Psychosomatic disorders are often called somatic symptom disorders, and the symptoms are called somatic symptoms.
People having these disorders often do not realize that they result from psychological factors or stress. They usually seek a medical diagnosis for it. However, these physical symptoms often have no formal medical explanation.
People with a psychosomatic illness may excessively worry about their symptoms, which affects their well-being and functioning.
What are the causes of psychosomatic disorders?
The exact causes of psychosomatic disorders are not certain.
Stress often plays a role as it releases certain hormones and chemicals that can affect the body’s functioning or cause damage. Anxiety, depression, and fear can also affect the nervous system, which can, in turn, affect different parts of the body.
Factors that can lead to the development of psychosomatic disorders include:
- Genetic factors
- Environmental or family context
- Social context and influences
- Personality, developmental, and behavioural issues
- Lifestyle issues and stress
- Emotional issues and difficulty in addressing or expressing emotions
- Physical or sexual abuse and psychological trauma
- Substance abuse (alcohol and drugs) and addiction
- Issues with physical appearance or perception of the body
- Chronic medical conditions or conditions that affect the well-being, functioning, and self-esteem of the person
What are the treatment options for psychosomatic disorders?
The treatment for a psychosomatic disorder often involves treating the somatic symptoms or the somatic pain experienced by the person.
However, it may also involve treating the underlying psychological or medical conditions. The course of treatment also differs for different types of psychosomatic disorders.
In general, treatment for a psychosomatic disorder may include the following:
- Psychological therapy or counselling
- Cognitive behavioural therapy
- Psychiatric treatment
- Medications (such as antidepressants)
- Body therapy like massages, exercises, and other physical interventions
- Somatic experience therapy (a therapy that focuses on physical sensations in the body to alleviate trauma symptoms)
What are the types of psychosomatic diseases?
The main types of psychosomatic disorders include the following:
1. Psychological symptoms along with a medical condition
This type of psychosomatic disorder involves a medical condition that is often accompanied by psychological or mental health issues. It may also be caused by the medications or the nature of the medical symptoms.
For example, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome are some instances of such disorders. Other examples include:
- Injuries that affect the normal functioning or mobility of the person
- Genetic or congenital conditions which cause physical abnormality in the person
- Brain conditions that affect certain functions such as speech or cognitive abilities
- Conditions that lead to excess body weight
- Developmental conditions that affect the physical and sexual attributes of a person
- Skin conditions (like vitiligo) that affect the appearance and self-esteem of the person
- Sexually transmitted diseases that affect the well-being and confidence of the person
- Conditions that affect fertility and sex drive of a person
2. Psychological condition along with a medical condition
This kind of psychosomatic disorder involves mental health conditions that are worsened by a medical condition or medical symptoms.
This could be due to a chronic medical condition such as cancer or diabetes. It could also be due to eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia.
3. Physical symptoms due to a psychological condition
In this kind of psychosomatic disorder, the person suffers from physical or medical symptoms that arise from an underlying psychological issue.
These symptoms may often be in the form of physical pain, especially when they are caused by trauma. Symptoms may also be physiological in nature, such as high blood pressure, fatigue, low energy, or imbalance of certain hormones or chemicals.
Besides that, they may also be bodily symptoms such as an ache in the shoulder or back pain that is caused by a buildup of psychological pain or tension.
For this kind of symptom, somatic experience therapy is particularly helpful. It works through body therapy to help release psychological distress.
Other types of psychosomatic illness include the following:
Illness anxiety disorder (Hypochondriasis)
People with this type of psychosomatic disorder are excessively anxious about mild symptoms or common symptoms like a headache.
This type of psychosomatic disorder is usually caused by emotional or physical trauma.
The symptoms include drooping eyelids, vision problems, loss of sensation in certain parts of the body, inability to speak or make a sound, and sudden illnesses.
This is when a person experiences chronic psychosomatic pain in certain parts of the body or pain over a long period. The pain may be severe and may last for a few weeks or even years.
Body dysmorphic disorder
People with this kind of psychosomatic disorder tend to have issues with how they view their bodies.
They may feel that their body is flawed or defective in some way. They may obsess over perceived issues with their body and may want to change the way they look through cosmetic procedures.
Psychosomatic disorders can affect your well-being and your everyday functioning. They can take a toll on both your physical and mental health. They may also affect your hormone levels, sexual drive, and fertility.
If you or your partner are concerned about your fertility, it is best to visit a fertility specialist. For the best fertility consultation, treatment, and care, visit your nearest Birla Fertility and IVF Centre or book an appointment with Dr. Deepika Mishra.
1. What are the 4 signs of psychosomatic illness?
The 4 signs of psychosomatic illness are:
1) Psychological distress such as anxiety, nervousness, or stress.
2) Physical pain or bodily symptoms that have no medical explanation. These could include chronic physical or physiological symptoms such as pain, inflammation, or high blood pressure.
3) Psychological conditions or medical conditions that lead to psychological issues or affect mental health.
4) Excessive or obsessive concern about physical symptoms experienced, including mild symptoms or regular aspects of bodily functioning.
2. What are the two types of psychosomatic diseases?
The two main types of psychosomatic diseases include:
1) Psychological symptoms along with a medical condition – This type of psychosomatic disorder may involve physiological factors that affect the levels of hormones or certain chemicals in the body. It may also involve a medical condition that causes psychological distress.
2) Physical symptoms due to a psychological condition – This type of psychosomatic disorder involves physical or medical symptoms that arise from an underlying psychological issue. These symptoms may often include pain in certain parts of the body. It can also be physiological symptoms such as digestive problems or inflammation.
3. Can psychosomatic illness be cured?
It would depend on the specific nature of the psychosomatic illness. If it is caused by a medical condition, it would depend on whether it is treatable.
If the psychosomatic illness is caused by an underlying psychological condition, treatment may take more time. The effects of treatment are not certain. However, it can still be treated through different kinds of therapy and, if needed, medication.
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